Albert Oehlen

Albert Oehlen   Untitled   2011

“We have to approach Oehlen's works gradually, step by step, as though ascending a staircase. We set out armed with the confidence of certainty, full of an unerring faith in the power of irony, streetwise to all the tricks of ridicule, only to find ourselves confronted with unreal forms and meaningless signs of glaring duplicity. Their sole objective seems to be to keep us alert and constantly on the lookout so that the whole painting can reveal itself for what it really is. The paintings have an information overload reminding the spectator that looking at the picture is likely to put him in the precarious position of having his eyes opened.”                                              
                                                                         Fabrice Hergott

Sigmar Polke

Sigmar Polke   Untitled   2006

“Darkness and light inextricably coexist, as social bonding coexists with aggression against the other. Everything is on its way to becoming something else. Everything we see is likely to be something other than what we think it is, or on its way to being seen as something other. We ourselves are always flowing out of ourselves, into the ozone of transcendence, into the cauldron of desire or the collective mystery of society. This whole exhibition, in fact, might be considered a succinct catalogue of the ways we get it wrong --an atlas of roads-to-hell well paved with good intentions -- an index of quick fictions that demonstrate the frailty of our aspirations to integrity and understanding. The gift these paintings make to us, then, is the vertiginous, anxious pleasure we derive from being freely lost, from not seeing anything clearly and not knowing anything for sure. In Polke's aesthetic, these anxious pleasures are the best we can expect from a world in which one pays too high a price for the comfort of certainty.”
                            Dave Hickey   from the catalogue Sigmar Polke: History of Everything

Nuala Gregory

Nuala Gregory   detail from Exploded View wall installation   2010

“Post-medium and post-conceptual theories of art suggest that painting is not so much dead as posthumous, enduring an unending afterlife. Its achievement is certain but insufficiently understood, and so it lingers on (as embarrassment, enigma, or happy commodity) in the digital age.”
  Nuala Gregory


Monet's Pond

Claude Monet   Water-Lily Pond   1926

“For the pond [in Monet’s garden] was as artificial as painting itself. It was flat, as a painting is. What showed on its surface, the clouds and lilypads and cat's-paws of wind, the dark patches of reflected foliage, the abysses of dark blue and the opaline shimmer of light from the sky, were all compressed together in a shallow space, a skin, like the space of painting. The willows touched it like brushes. No foreground, no background; instead, a web of connections. Monet's vision of energy manifesting itself in a continuous field of nuances would be of great importance to abstract painting thirty years after his death. A work like Jackson Pollock's Lavender Mist, 1950, with its palpitation of paint-skeins knitted across the whole canvas, is an American prolongation of the Symbolist line that runs through Monet's garden. But even if they had had no echoes in future painting, some of the Waterlilies would still be among the supreme moments of vision in Western art. The pond was a slice of infinity. To seize the indefinite; to fix what is unstable; to give form and location to sights so evanescent and complex that they could hardly be named -- these were basic ambitions of modernism, and they went against the smug view of determined reality that materialism and positivism give us."
                                                     Robert Hughes   from The Shock of The New


Patrick Michael Fitzgerald

Patrick Michael Fitzgerald  Tree (andratx)   2009

“My working process is quite organic and I like the materiality and directness of painting. Each painting is a kind of entity or body; they are layered and grow in unexpected ways; they are meshed and woven together using different painterly components, small gestures and marks, threads and lines, swathes and bands. I like the idea of cultivation and gardens and the paintings often refer to these directly or indirectly. Obviously, colour, light and form are essential elements in my work but also the qualities of surface, tactility and touch are very important too. I have come to understand that painting is as much about energy as anything else, nothing is really solid and finally formed.”
                                                                Patrick Michael Fitzgerald    

Richard Rorty

Micky Donnelly  Untitled #4  2011  Oil on Fabric on Canvas

Richard Rorty, in his book ‘Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity', argues very persuasively that all vocabularies which purport to describe our world are contingent and therefore open to re-adjustment. He says that people who become aware of this contingency can be called ‘ironists’ in that they treat all ‘final’ (i.e. closed and conclusive) descriptions of the world with equal caution, no matter how solid and agreeable some appear to be.
In other words, every accepted description of our world -- religious, artistic, ideological, philosophical, and scientific -- is never completely trustworthy and is open to question.
An acceptance of Rorty’s position, which is itself contingent, activates all kinds of freedoms for us to continuously re-assess our most closely held values, and to reject, re-arrange, or at least challenge, our assumed hierarchies of meaning and our most ingrained notions of reality.

Amy Sillman

Amy Sillman   Bed   2006

“Painting is a physical thinking process to continue an interior dialogue, a way to engage in a kind of internal discourse, or sub-linguistic mumbling…”
                                                                   Amy Sillman

Dave Hickey

Micky Donnelly  Untitled #14  2011  Oil on Fabric on Wood

                                 “The meaning of a sign is the response to it.”
                                                                     Dave Hickey

Philip Guston

Philip Guston  Red Sea  1975

“The spatial dynamics of Guston's paintings are elemental and organic in their permutations. Usually the scene is set by a simple horizontal division of the canvas, each half dominated by a single hue—most often blue or black opposite red or roseate grays—and the resulting space is almost closed off by the density of pigment and color. Although Guston's paintings, like Rothko's late work, are frontal and expansive in design, their atmosphere is, by contrast, heavy and airless. Emphatically earth-bound, they instill claustrophobia rather than intimate transcen­dence. Their topography consists of barren embankments that press forward like landslides against the picture plane, encroaching upon the viewer's space while seeming to forbid any escape for the figures that languish half-embedded in them. Thus, Guston's work recalls the somber, denuded landscapes of Goya's Black Paintings.”
                                                                                                  Robert Storr


Ellen Gallagher

Ellen Gallagher  oogaboogah  1994

“Although the techniques which Gallagher invented or reinvented for herself are labor intensive, the finished work is sprightly and full of visual wit. Agnes Martin may be in the background, but Paul Klee and Jean Arp skitter across the foreground at unpredictable intervals. At times this antic quality and the full measure of pictorial space allotted simple forms in flux is also reminiscent of Susan Rothenberg's paintings of the early 1980s. Like Rothenberg in that period, Gallagher has a fairly limited repertoire of basic ideograms but also like Rothenberg she deploys with a freedom that is always surprising and always evocative in ways that can only happen when an artist takes full advantage of their intuition to beat a system of their own devising.”
                                                                      Robert Storr



Micky Donnelly  Ghost  2011  Oil on Fabric on Wood

Ludwig Wittgenstein’s methods of investigation and his various thought experiments about ‘family resemblance’, perception, picturing, and the use of colour have been an inspiration to many artists. His views on language are considered to be some of the most salient features of his work.

He claims that ordinary everyday language is, or should be, sufficient to our needs. It is not fixed but comes alive in the living stream of common usage. Whatever new utterances are called into everyday use become de facto part of our world, and have to be treated as such, so unique first-time statements and events may (or may not) become meaningful over time. “Language-games” take many guises, some more durable than others, but, generally, “the speaking of language is part of an activity, or of a life-form,” and therefore subject to change and manipulation.

He makes the case that language can be distorted by abstract theorizing, within which the underlying structures of the language-game tend to be displaced, so that the natural range of meanings contained within statements becomes unclear. One implication of this seems to be that a fair degree of philosophy, especially of the metaphysical kind, is not very useful, and probably serves only to push language beyond its functional limits. In other words, it might give the impression of profundity but a lot of it tends towards obfuscation and pretension, interesting only to people who enjoy that particular type of language-game. This could also be readily applied to most art theory and much art criticism. Easy targets, maybe.

But let’s say, for the sake of discussion, that exactly the same claims can be made about the 'language' of painting itself. New painterly images or combinations of images, no matter how strange or unusual, have a right to be noted and considered by the very fact of their production. If they then become accepted as relevant within their own community of discourse (i.e. the art world), their assimilation can somehow shift the values of all preceding painterly images by, as it were, subtly diverting the stream of usage, and by causing the rules of the various picture-games to be modified. Genuine innovation is welcomed and the discipline evolves, just as it should.

However, to continue the analogy, a lot of contemporary painting up until recently, like a lot of contemporary philosophy, seemed to endorse its own redundancy by moving in never-ending circles of self-definition. It somehow supposed itself to be resolving ‘issues’ within its own discipline, but was, in fact, treating minor concerns as major themes solely for the gratification of fellow travellers. In the process, it tended to become drained of emotional content and to lose any sense of connection with everyday experience.

Under pressure from repeated claims of extinction, painting has somehow survived and now seems to be thriving. Many new types of painting have appeared that are ambitious but do not necessarily take themselves too seriously. There is a renewed sense of playfulness, invention and independence. Many painters now avoid assimilation into camps, do not rely on signature styles, and diffuse the possibility of pretension by staying connected in some way to shades of reality, that is, by referring, however tenuously, to everyday feelings and perceptions in all their diversity.


Terry Winters

Terry Winters  Dumb Compass  1985

“Winters continues to discomfort and unsettle as much as he seduces. By cultivating forces that create friction, irresolution, ambiguity, and fluctuation, he infuses his work with unusual metaphoric power. We are witness to both entropic and creative processes; disorder and formation; fragmenta­tion and coalescence. All logical opposition - figure/ground, inside/outside, male/female - is subsumed within paradoxical incongruities and cyclical movements of stasis and growth, morphology and psychology, chaos and order, mystery and precision, deliberation and spontaneity. Winters offers his speculative natural history to counter official systems of scientific theory, religious experience, and psychoanalytic definitions, which can never adequately describe the structure, complexity, and sensuality of the world.”
                                                                    Lisa Phillips


Raymond Carver

Micky Donnelly  Proposition #13  2008/2010  Oil on Fabric on Canvas

What You Need for Painting

from a letter by Renoir

Flake white
Chrome yellow
Naples yellow
Yellow ochre
Raw umber
Venetian red
French vermilion
Madder lake
Rose madder
Cobalt blue
Ultramarine blue
Emerald green
Ivory Black
Raw sienna
Viridian green
White lead

Palette knife
Scraping knife
Essence of turpentine

Pointed marten-hair brushes
Flat hog-hair brushes

Indifference to everything except your canvas.
The ability to work like a locomotive.
An iron will.

                  Raymond Carver



Thomas Nozkowski

Thomas Nozkowski  Untitled  1983

“With Nozkowski, abstraction becomes an endless adventure in structure, texture, tone and mood. To all evidence, his imagination appears encyclopaedic within the nar­row parameters of the fixed plane. For a strictly non-specific communicator, his pictures are eloquent and articulate, full of humour and pathos and close observation of things half remembered or entirely imagined. With their distorted reminiscences of modernisms past, their misshapen geometries and impossible constructions, and their enigmatic evocations of rustic melodies and caricatures of form, his pictures amount to an infinite catalogue of types, a never-ending sequence of character studies under a regime of relentless difference. They remind me of democracy.”
                                                                         Marc Mayer



Micky Donnelly  Proposition #32  2008/2010  Oil on Fabric on Canvas

                 “Not what we have, but what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance.”



Micky Donnelly  Proposition #28  2008/2010  Oil on Fabric on Canvas

“The creative act is an example of someone working from an internal set of heuristics, or trial-and error models, that has evolved through time. Every hunch, may, in fact, be traced to a heuristic. The feeling an artist has, for instance, that a certain colour would work in a certain place, though they may not be able to describe it in words, can be attributed to a problem-solving strategy which is partly unconscious in nature, and which may involve several trial-and-error models interacting. What is deemed to be truly original does not come from thin air. It is the result of the combinations of and relationships between many heuristics which currently exist within a consciousness, out of which a new heuristic arises, only to be thrown back into the mix. Unexpected moves become necessary for experience, and experience becomes necessary for making further unexpected moves."
                                                     adapted from an anonymous internet text


Gary Stephan

Gary Stephan  Painting of Paintings (light corners)  2009

“We live and breathe until we don't any more, and meanwhile our eyes dart about our environment, hungry for stimulus. The best abstract painting, like Stephan's, rests its legitimacy on a persuasive identification of living with looking. All paintings are consciousness surrogates fitting over our brains like virtual-reality helmets, such that we experience, as our own, thoughts and feelings that originate elsewhere. Abstraction aims to intensify this transaction's uncanniness, bending consciousness back on itself to make thought the material of thought and feeling the object of feeling.”
                                                                             Peter Schjeldahl


Juan Usle

Juan Usle  Historia con tres nudos  1997

“After a visit to Nepal in I989, Usle resolved that:henceforth he would never repeat a painting... Instead of style there would be attentiveness to the moment. Instead of signature, naturalness.’

The early modernists and most of Usle's contemporaries found and then refined their signature styles. Usle rejects that way of working. Refusing to settle down, he employs Mondrian grids, Reinhardt's black, the brushstrokes of late De Kooning, Newman's zips, Picabia's early machine paintings and a multitude of devices from both the figures of an earlier generation and his contemporaries.”
                                                                              David Carrier


James Elkins

Willem De Kooning  Untitled  1983

“Paint records the most delicate gesture and the most tense. It tells whether the painter sat or stood or crouched in front of the canvas. Paint is a cast made of the painter's movements, a portrait of the painter’s body and thoughts. The muddy moods of oil paints are the painter’s muddy humors, and its brilliant transformations are the painter’s unexpected discoveries. Painting is an unspoken and largely uncognized dialogue, where paint speaks silently in masses and colors and the artist responds in moods. All those meanings are intact in the paintings that hang in museums: they preserve the memory of the tired bodies that made them, the quick jabs, the exhausted truces, the careful nourishing gestures. Painters can sense those motions in the paint even before they notice what the paintings are about. Paint is water and stone, and it is also liquid thought.”
                                                                James Elkins   from What Painting Is 


Noam Chomsky

Micky Donnelly  from  Mapping The Days  2008/2010

“Anarchism, in my view, is an expression of the idea that the burden of proof is always on those who argue that authority and domination are necessary. They have to demonstrate, with powerful argument, that that conclusion is correct. If they cannot, then the institutions they defend should be considered illegitimate. How one should react to illegitimate authority depends on circumstances and conditions: there are no formulas. In the present period, the issues arise across the board, as they commonly do: from personal relations in the family and elsewhere, to the international political/economic order. And anarchist ideas -- challenging authority and insisting that it justify itself -- are appropriate at all levels.”
                                                                                   Noam Chomsky


Raoul De Keyser

Raoul De Keyser   Red Diamond   2006  Oil on Canvas

"De Keyser’s paintings frequently derive from his daily surroundings. Laundry hanging from a clothes line, Venetian blinds, the vapour trails of a plane, a tree next to his house, the lines and shades where two walls meet, the chalk line of a football pitch. The references are still there, but only if you want to see them. More than anything De Keyser’s paintings celebrate painting and as such life itself. It’s just paint on canvas, nothing more, nothing less. There’s no ideology, no meaning, no hidden manifesto and no bravura. Just paint on canvas, but sometimes the paint speaks for itself."
                                                                                                               Ivar Hagendoorn


Robert Hughes

Micky Donnelly  Proposition #10  2008/2010  Oil on Fabric on Canvas

“Art discovers its true social use, not on the ideological plane, but by opening the passage from feeling to meaning – not for everyone, since that would be impossible, but for those who want to try. This impulse seems to be immortal. Certainly it has existed from the origins of human society, and despite the appalling commercialisation of the art world, its flight into corporate ethics and strategies, and its gradual evacuation of spirit, it exists today.”
                                                      Robert Hughes  from The Shock of the New


Willem De Kooning

Willem De Kooning  Excavation  1950

"Whatever an artist’s personal feelings are, as soon as an artist fills a certain area on the canvas or circumscribes it, he becomes historical. He acts from or upon other artists."
                                                                                    Willem De Kooning


Rainer Maria Rilke

Micky Donnelly  Proposition #12  2008/2010  Oil on Fabric on Canvas

                                   “And we, spectators always, everywhere,
                                    looking at, never out of, everything!
                                    It fills us. We arrange it. It collapses. 
                                    We re-arrange it, and collapse ourselves.”
                                 Rainer Maria Rilke   from The Eighth Duino Elegy



Micky Donnelly  Proposition #42  2008/2010  Oil on Fabric on Canvas

Recently, while writing a statement about my work, I hesitated for some time before using the phrase “the jouissance of seeing” to describe some of the motivation behind my paintings and photographs. “Jouissance” is a word teetering on the brink of pretension, a word rarely used and probably only then by people who might claim to have read Jacques Lacan. There is a certain risk by association in using it, but the alternative possibilities for what I wanted to say didn’t quite measure up….

“The joy of seeing” is too weak, and too laced with intimations of popular psychology; similarly “the joy of looking” is too cosy and too domestic; “the joy of vision” or “the richness of vision” aren’t specific enough and seem to suggest some kind of mystical leanings; “the erotics of seeing” is a bit misleading, though it might have a certain agreeable overlap of correspondence; and so on….

“The jouissance of seeing” suggests more than just joy – it suggests play, joyousness, and delight through an active engagement, rather than something passively received. It implies the pleasures of actively looking at things in the world, things that become unique through the looking, not just awe-inspiring images of nature, for example, but modest everyday things seen consistently from new angles or in a new light.

The phrase might even suggest a kind of in-the-moment awareness of constantly 'seeing the world anew', the kind of awareness that can only be cultivated over a long period of time. And it would seem natural that years of looking at paintings, and making paintings, would help cultivate such an awareness.


John Cage

Micky Donnelly  from  Mapping The Days  2008/2010

“Not immediately, but a few years later, I was to move from structure to process, from music as an object having parts, to music without beginning, middle, or end, music as weather."
                                                                                 John Cage  from An Autobiographical Statement


Keith Jarrett

                                    Micky Donnelly  Untitled  2010  Oil on Fabric on Canvas

"Keith Jarrett has commented that his best performances were during the times where he had the least amount of preconception of what he was going to play at the next moment. An apocryphal account of one such performance had Jarrett staring at the piano for several minutes without playing. As the audience grew increasingly uncomfortable, one member shouted to Jarrett, 'D sharp!', to which the pianist responded, 'Thank you!', and launched into an improvisation at speed."
                                                  adapted from an anonymous internet text


Gianni Vattimo

                                  Micky Donnelly  Cluster  2009  Oil on Fabric on Canvas

The Italian philosopher Gianni Vattimo claims that a lot of the generally accepted certainties that have sustained our culture are not certainties at all. He says that, in order to see them differently, we need to find a type of ‘weak thought’ whereby our strongest and most basic intellectual assumptions are dissolved from within and replaced with a more flexible set of possibilities, which we should avoid moulding into yet another fixed and authoritative foundation for thought.

Postmodernism has generated various experiments along these lines, with some success, but is still commonly seen as an adjunct to late modernism, whose prescribed tenets continue to rule as our major cultural models. Specialisation and cultural reductionism, along with a narrow conflation of progress with new technologies, would still seem to be the order of the day. ‘Weak thought’ stands for something else - oblique means of discovery rather than analysis, and an emphasis on interpretations over facts. It advocates a ‘turning to new purposes’ rather than an aggressive overcoming of tradition, and it recommends open, organic forms of research with more than one vocabulary. Innovation and secularisation are welcomed because they gradually undermine conditioning, creating a ‘play of interpretations’ that facilitates a shift towards a more open, charitable society less fixated on the old truths.

Although Vattimo’s discussion stays very much within the realms of philosophy, the interesting thing, for some people, is that the general description of ‘weak thought’ fits closely with what contemporary art, in all its diverse and anarchic forms, should be, or ideally could be, were it not for the twin contagions of pretension and money (this might sound na├»ve, but just think about how art is actually used by most people). ‘Weak thought’ could therefore be easily contrived as a very useful model for the aspirations of artists today. Or, alternatively, what artists have been doing for the last few hundred years could be contrived as a model for ‘weak thought’.



                             Micky Donnelly  Placement  2009  Oil on Fabric on Canvas

                                 A cosmic ray scrambles the atoms in a DNA molecule.
                         A few billion evolutionary steps later, orchids appear.
                         Are the orchids any less novel or marvellous for the
                         contingency of their coming into being?


Michel De Certeau

                                       Micky Donnelly  Transition #1   2007   Mixed Media on Canvas

  “Everyday life invents itself by poaching in countless ways on the property of others.”
                                                       Michel de Certeau from The Practice of Everyday Life

                               see more information at http://www.mickydonnelly.com/